NASCAR said that Brad Keselowski will not be further penalized for body modifications mare to the No. 2 car during a pit stop at Pocono last weekend. Was the in-race penalty enough, or should NASCAR take further action on teams who try to alter the body to create more speed?
Amy Henderson, Senior Editor: I think that a blatant attempt to modify a car to gain an advantage is no different than cheating up the body at any other time during a race weekend, and we’ve seen crew chiefs suspended for six weeks for those infractions. If a lug nut left off is a one-week vacation now, this needs to be at least that. The team should have also had to fix the car under green, not under yellow with just a stop and go under green. It’s a little hard to buy that jackmen always seem to “trip” at just the right spot to give the car an aero advantage instead of, say, on the nose or front fender.
Jeff Wolfe, Senior Writer: Since the alteration happened during the race and appeared to be visible on video, then the in-race penalty was enough. The fact that the penalty involved two phases, coming to pit road to fix the body, and then a drive through on a green flag was good enough. You have to wonder if the penalty cost Keselowski a win, since he finished third anyway.
Dustin Albino, Contributor: It’s a competitive sport so I don’t think so. Every week each team is trying to get the most speed out of their racecars, regardless of the rules. I believe that the in-race penalty matched the crime because the team knew how to get it back to the original skew. If it keeps happening with teams than i believe NASCAR should reinforce the penalties.
Mark Howell, Senior Writer: Body modifications during pit stops tend to be a race-by-race, case-by-case deal. Funny how this rules violation is becoming the new “missed lug nuts” cheat-du jour. Teams need to be pretty gutsy if they want to attempt such a thing, especially with NASCAR cameras all around. Challenging Big Brother’s rule book is quite the gamble, but one that seems limited in use for the time being. As someone who’s inherently clumsy, when is a stumbling jackman anything more than just that?
Bryan Gable, Contributor: The penalty did not need to be any more severe. Since NASCAR made the No. 2 team fix the dent and come back down pit road under green, that combination of correcting the modification and losing time to the field is fair.
After that race, Keselowski accused FOX race analyst Jeff Gordon of bias toward certain teams…is Keselowski right, and can anything be done to change the situation while keeping former drivers in the booth?
Howell:Bias is impossible to avoid in any profession. As well-meaning and impartial as former drivers might be, there’s always a twinge of favoritism in their reporting. Remember how Darrell Waltrip all but forgave brother Michael’s actions after he caused a caution at Talladega a few weeks ago? Showing bias is like farting: you know you shouldn’t do it in public, but sometimes you simply can’t help it.
Gable: Everyone who works in this sport has some kind of bias. The challenge is to recognize that bias and to not let it cloud your judgement. Gordon has been a cheerleader for the No. 24 team at times, but his connections to Hendrick Motorsports do not affect his eloquence in the booth or his knowledge about what it is like to be a driver. Besides, it is understandable if Gordon has an affinity for the team he raced with for 23 years.
Henderson: There’s no doubt that Gordon is biased and it shows at times. But there is a difference between unbiased and fair. No human being is completely unbiased, but as a reporter, it’s Gordon’s job to be fair. There are times when he, in my opinion, crosses the line just slightly with his feelings toward the No. 24, and I note here that that was his team less than a year ago; six months ago he was celebrating with them in Las Vegas after a title bid. It’s not much different than Ned Jarrett calling his son home at Daytona. It’s not the No. 48 that he owns a chunk of that he’s giving extra attention. As for his analysis of Keselowski’s penalty, he made a mistake over the Vegas issue but was dead on about Monday’s, so he did nothing wrong in analyzing what went down. All he needs to do is tone down his fondness for the 24 bunch and he’ll be fine.
Wolfe: I don’t know if Gordon is intentionally being biased or not, but Keselowski has a fair point in that when you’ve got someone in the booth involved in team ownership, it’s going to be tough to be completely objective in a situation.
Albino: Keselowski is right, but Gordon admits that he is biased. To be honest he should be. He still owns part of the No. 48 car. He raced 23 full-time seasons with HMS. You can’t just turn off those feelings toward a group of people after being with them for so long. Gordon is doing a great job in the booth. NASCAR is a sport that needs multiple color analysts, I don’t think FOX has it right this year as they should remove DW from the booth and put Larry Mac back in, but regardless of the circumstances a person in the booth is always going to have feelings toward something, whether it’s a driver, sponsor, team, etc.
Dale Earnhardt, Jr. says that drivers need more practice time each weekend. Would adding time make a difference to what the fans see on Sunday, and should it be considered?
Wolfe: I think it would definitely help the big budget teams because they have more cars on the track practicing and if one of those cars finds a little more speed and the team gathers a little more information as a result of that practice, then the whole team is helped by it.
Albino: It might help depending on the track. I do think that there should be three practice sessions each weekend. Why was there only one practice on Saturday in Pocono? It seems like every weekend that the race is on Sunday, there is a practice session on Friday as well as qualifying, then two practices on Saturday. There was no reason behind only one practice on Saturday in Pocono. It would help at some tracks, I just don’t know which ones.
Howell: More practice is always a good thing, but race weekends are often packed with supporting and supplemental events. If more track time is needed, NASCAR is going to have to rearrange how races are scheduled. Weather is another issue to address, as we saw at Pocono. Some weekends will force teams to sit parked because of situations beyond NASCAR’s control.
Gable: If a majority of the drivers want more practice, and NASCAR can make it work logistically, then go for it. Instituting more practice time would be one of those measures that changes more things behind the scenes than in the public eye. From a fan’s perspective, I do not think there would be a noticeable difference on race day.
Henderson: It’s not so much more practice, but practice under better conditions, that teams should have. In the olden days, final practice was held after the Saturday support race, which generally started a little earlier to accommodate. The track is rubbered in much closer to what it will be on Sunday (barring rain, of course), and it’s generally still the heat of the day. For night races, the Cup teams should have the option of a Thursday night practice prior to a Saturday race. They need more practice in race conditions, not just more time on the clock.
Kurt Busch became the ninth different winner in Sprint Cup this year with his victory at Pocono. Realistically, which drivers without wins are likely to get one before the Chase cutoff, and is 2016 the year all the Chase spots are claimed with victories?
Gable: The only other drivers who stand a good chance at winning are Joey Logano, Chase Elliott, and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Nobody else has displayed the strength necessary to contend for wins regularly. We may get a surprise winner or two at Daytona or the road courses, but there will be at least three drivers who wind up making the Chase on points.
Henderson: I think 16 is still a stretch. I fully expect to see Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. find Victory Lane before summer’s end and I’d not be surprised to see Kyle Larson, Chase Elliott, and/or Austin Dillon there as well. If all of them win and we see unexpected winners at Daytona and one of the road courses, there’s an outside shot at 16, but more than that would be a stretch.
Howell: I’m expecting Earnhardt, Elliott, Larson, Logano, and Austin Dillon to visit Victory Lane before the postseason. While the odds are slim, 2016 just might be when we see 16 winners heading into the Chase. The next three or four weeks will play a large role in that possibility.
Wolfe: I don’t think there will be 16 different winners in the Sprint Cup series. I would say Joey Logano and Dale Earnhardt Jr. are the two drivers left that will most likely get a win, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Chase Elliott get a win as he’s been getting closer in recent races. And then add AJ Allmendinger on one of the road courses and maybe one other surprise winner, and I would say 14 is the maximum number of winners in the NASCAR regular season.
Albino: Joey Logano, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Chase Elliott and Kyle Larson will get a victory before the Chase. I doubt we will ever see more than 16 winners in the regular season.
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